opinion column uk

Jeremy Hunt should resign to preserve UK media integrity

Jeremy-Hunt

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is at the centre of the BkyB takeover scandal after new evidence emerged that linked him directly to the News Corporation, when he should have been impartial. The handling of the BskyB deal was scrutinized when several emails from Jeremy Hunt’s office appeared to give indirect approval of the deal on his behalf.

Jeremy Hunt has gone on the defensive, providing an exhaustive argument in front of MP’s about the decisions he took in regards to the BskyB deal, and his consultations with Ofcom. However, the Prime Minister is now hinting that Hunt could be fired if more evidence emerged that he had a direct relationship with News Corporation.

Statement issued by Jeremy Hunt:

“Specifically on the merger of News Corp with BskyB I would like to remind the House of the process I followed. Throughout, I have strictly followed due process – seeking the advice of independent regulators– and after careful consideration, acting on their advice. I have published all advice that I have received from Ofcom and the Oft, together with correspondence between myself and News Corporation including details of all meetings I have held in relation to this process.

As part of this process, my officials and I have engaged with News Corporation and its representatives and well as other interested parties – both supporters and opponents of the merger.

Transcripts of conversations and texts published yesterday between my special adviser Adam Smith and a News Corporation representative have been alleged to indicate there was a back channel through which News Corporation were able to influence my decisions. That is categorically not the case.”

Source: DCMS

Adam Smith, Special Advisor to Jeremy Hunt, resigned on Wednesday but his departure has done little to protect Hunt from the ensuing scandal. How much control did Hunt have over Smith? Was Smith acting on Hunt’s direct instructions to avoid standard judicial procedures?

Since the revelations, Former BBC Chief has emphasised a specific point about the degree of action Adam Smith took which raises further doubt over the claims Hunt acted impartially.

Former BBC Chief Sir Michael Lyons statement

“The notion that seems to have somehow developed that poor Adam Smith might possibly have done this without license is extraordinary, quite extraordinary. I spoke to Jeremy and Adam Smith in the period immediately after the election and in particular over the run up to the extraordinary accelerated license-fee negotiations and there is no doubt in my mind that Adam Smith did nothing without Jeremy knowing about it.”

Source: Guardian

Why Hunt Should resign

While we can’t be 100% certain that Hunt wanted to circumvent the Ministerial Code, Smith was likely acting on Hunt’s direct instructions, providing assurances of his position through his correspondences with News Corporation.

The facts will come out, but ultimately Hunt’s image has been badly damaged by this scandal, and to be the face of the culture and media environment in the UK, is equally unsettling. With the Olympics just around the corner, the UK’s cultural image is at stake, and the Government must act transparently. If further evidence emerges of Hunt’s breach of the Ministerial Code, it could widen the damage, and the credibility of the British Government. It’s best for him to step down.

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